Best of our wild blogs: 24 Apr 12

Oil-slicked Tanah Merah still fishy
from wild shores of singapore

Pasir Ris Mangrove Boardwalk Guided Tour
from Cheekiemonkies

裕华园噪鹃 Asian Koel@Chinese Garden
from PurpleMangrove

Application for DENSO Youth for Earth Action is now open till 15 May 2012! from Toddycats!

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21 trees topple over at Pasir Ris Park

Straits Times 24 Apr 12;

The trees, some as tall as seven storeys, toppled over near Carpark C of Pasir Ris Park on Sunday night. Nobody was hurt and no property was damaged. The cause of the incident is being investigated. -- PHOTO: SHIN MIN

TWENTY-ONE trees, some as tall as seven storeys, toppled over near Carpark C of Pasir Ris Park on Sunday night.

The National Parks Board (NParks) was notified of the damage at 7am yesterday, and it set about removing those causing obstruction. It will take a few more days to clear the debris, it said.

Its spokesman said the cause of the incident is being investigated, and would not be drawn into speculating what caused that many trees to fall at one go.

Nobody was hurt and no property was damaged.

NParks general manager Chia Seng Jiang said the stepped-up programme to inspect and prune mature trees, especially those in high-traffic areas, has reduced the percentage of trees affected by storms to 0.1 per cent in the last few years.

Nature Society president Shawn Lum said he suspects Sumatra squalls to have caused the trees to topple.

The Meteorological Service here defines such squalls as eastward-moving lines of thunderstorms bringing heavy rain and gusty winds of 40kmh to 80kmh.

These squalls happen regularly during the inter-monsoon period from April to October.

Mr Lum said there have been intermittent squalls in the last few weeks, so it is not surprising the trees toppled over - 'though it is sad for the trees and tree lovers, of course'.

In March last year, hundreds of trees off Mandai Road fell over in a storm; a few weeks ago, trees in Warrick Road near Alexandra Road were also damaged in what may have been another squall.


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Paper outlining five population scenarios released

Tan Weizhen Today Online 24 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE - As Singapore marks a "demographic turning point" this year, where the Republic's first cohort of baby boomers turns 65, a paper has been released by the Government projecting that an intake of about 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year would keep the citizen population size stable.

This is assuming that future demographic trends prevail, said National Population and Talent Division (NPTD), releasing the paper today.

In one of five scenarios that NPTD put out with varying intakes of new citizens, if Singapore's total fertility rate (TFR) stays at 1.2 births per female and there are no new citizens, Singapore's native population will shrink around 2025.

Under this scenario, there will only be 2.1 working-age citizens to each elderly citizen by 2030, and citizen deaths will exceed births in 13 years, the paper said.

Between now and 2030, over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce.

The NPTD said it will be involving the public in a 'national conversation' centering around topics related to this paper, following focus groups.

The paper can be accessed at

Immigration can mitigate rate at which citizen population ages: report
Imelda Saad Channel NewsAsia 24 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE: Singapore needs to continue attracting immigrants to slow down the decline and ageing of its citizen population, according to a paper released by the National Population and Talent Division.

It says that if the country's Total Fertility Rate remains the same, Singapore will need an immigration inflow of between 20,000 and 25,000 new citizens each year to keep the citizen population size stable.

This is one of the five population scenarios set out by the paper.

The scenarios are not predictions or forecasts, but illustrations of the growth and change in population that will occur if certain assumptions about future demographics trends prevail over a projected period.

Singapore's TFR now stands at 1.2, well below the replacement rate of 2.1.

This year has been described as a "demographic turning point", when the first cohort of post-war Baby Boomers born between 1947 and 1965 start turning 65 years of age.

Without immigration, the paper says citizen deaths will exceed births in 13 years.

By 2025, the population will also start to age and shrink, with the median age being 45 - up from the current 39 years.

The citizen workforce will also start to shrink with fewer working-age citizens supporting each elderly citizen.

The paper projects that the trend will be mitigated somewhat with immigration.

It says immigration will help to slow down the decline in the pool of working-age citizens and slow down the rate of ageing among the population.

Taking in 20,000-25,000 new citizens each year will also bump up the citizen old-age support ratio slightly from 2.1 to 2.4 working citizens for every elderly citizen, in 2030.

The paper will form the basis of discussions among focus groups and the public for a White Paper to be released by the National Population and Talent Division by the end of the year.

The White Paper will set out issues important to Singaporeans and strategies for a sustainable population. It will cover things like land use and infrastructure planning.

The public consultation for this is expected to start in the middle of the year.

- CNA/cc

Population will shrink from 2025 without new citizens
Pool of working age citizens will also drop steadily from 2.1m today
Phua Mei Pin Straits Times 25 Apr 12;

SINGAPORE needs 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens each year to prevent a decline in its citizen population from 2025, new government projections show.

That assumes no big uptick in the number of Singaporean babies born here. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is now 1.2, one of the lowest in the world.

If it stays put, and the door to new migrants is shut from this year, the citizen population will start shrinking in 13 years' time.

The pool of working age citizens will also drop steadily from today's 2.1 million to about 1.5 million in 2060.

These are some of the five scenarios in a paper that the National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) released yesterday.

As the lead agency for the Government on population matters, it is conducting a comprehensive examination of population goals and policies, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean announced during the Budget debate.

The NPTD is releasing information to spur study and discussion in the lead-up to a White Paper on population matters, due by the year end.

It has launched focus group discussions with different segments of the community. From the middle of the year, it will engage the public through various avenues, including dialogues and online channels, to discuss population issues holistically.

'Through this process, we hope to bring to light issues that are important to Singapore and Singaporeans, and develop a shared understanding of our strategies to build a sustainable population that secures Singapore's future,' it told The Straits Times via e-mail.

The five scenarios drawn up by NPTD, using data from the Department of Statistics, are based on the following assumptions:

TFR rises to 2.1

TFR stays at 1.2 and the number of new citizens each year is zero, 15,000, 20,000 or 25,000.

A comparison shows that only with an annual injection of 20,000 to 25,000 new citizens a year can the citizen population size be kept at a constant level of four million. In all other scenarios, the total number of citizens will dwindle.

From 2007 to 2010, Singapore's intake of new citizens ranged from over 17,334 to 20,513. Last year saw 15,777 additions to the citizen population.

A key point from the paper is that, regardless of which scenario comes to pass, Singapore's citizen population will continue to age. In the best-case scenario, median age rises from 39 in 2011 to 42 in 2060. In the worst case, it jumps to as high as 55.

From now to 2030, Singapore will also see 'an unprecedented age shift, as over 900,000 baby boomers will retire from the workforce and enter their silver years', NPTD said in the paper.

Commenting on NPTD's scenarios yesterday, Associate Professor Kalyani Mehta, the head of SIM University's programme for gerontology, pointed to the Retirement and Re-employment Act as a measure that can impact the size of the working population.

'It remains to be seen how much we can improve our labour force productivity. Getting people such as housewives back into the workforce is another strategy that has to be factored in.'

Demographer Gavin Jones noted the paper's silence on the future permanent resident population.

'To become a citizen, you pass through a process of being a PR first. New citizens are drawn from that pool and you do need to look at that aspect,' he said.

Last September, the Institute of Policy Studies drew up 48 scenarios on the resident population, which includes citizens and permanent residents.

Its conclusion: If net migration was zero, the resident population would start bottoming out in 2025, dropping to three million by 2050.

Yesterday, the NPTD also stressed that the Government takes care to accept immigrants who are able to integrate well into Singapore society.

From 2001 to 2010, 49 per cent of new citizens were from South-east Asia, 42 per cent from other parts of Asia and the remaining 9 per cent from other parts of the world.

From 2005 to 2010, about 55 per cent of new citizens were aged 30 or younger.

Members of the public may access the paper and give their comments at

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PUB staff can now take action faster

Officers authorised to enter premises without notice for specified cases
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 24 Apr 12;

STAFF from national water agency PUB can now spring more quickly into action to repair faulty equipment or nab water polluters.

Under a new law introduced earlier this month, its officers can enter homes and other buildings without notice, even if the occupants are not around.

Previously, the agency had to give advance notice of at least six hours, which could be a handicap when it came to gathering evidence of wrongdoing.

It can now react faster to search premises and collect evidence such as documents and water samples, and also compel the relevant parties to help out with investigations.

The PUB can also authorise officers from other statutory boards to carry out these duties. All these changes will allow it to do its work more efficiently, a spokesman said.

Its duties include keeping an eye on the Republic's catchment areas and discharge into the drainage system, investigating and penalising water-related offenders, and protecting water-related installations in the country.

But others have raised concerns over the new law's reach. In a speech in Parliament earlier this month, MP for Aljunied GRC Sylvia Lim noted that the PUB's expanded powers come with 'a lot of grey areas'.

'Tasks such as forced entry into premises, conducting searches and doing investigation work are confrontational by nature, and have a lot of grey areas and decision points where discretion needs to be exercised in a lawful manner,' she said.

She also raised concerns over the PUB's new ability to appoint other statutory board officers to do its work.

'What assurances will the public have that they are properly trained and accountable for the exercise of such powers?' she said.

The new law spells out specific circumstances in which the PUB or its appointed officers can enter buildings without notice.

These include incidents of emergency, fire or drought; cases where the water quality fails to meet standards; and the need to repair, replace or maintain any water installation.

Entry into buildings could also be necessary to stop any disruption of water supply to consumers or to conserve the supply.

But a more general clause also allows entry 'in the interests of public safety'. Some incidents, such as possible large-scale water contamination, have to be addressed with more urgency, said the spokesman.

The new law will also deal a heavier blow to water polluters, she said. In 2010, for example, the PUB received reports of a solvent smell in the air in the Jurong industrial area.

It found an unusual discharge in the public sewers there and traced it to a nearby factory, but was unable to gather samples due to delayed access to the premises.

The spokesman added that the agency's regulatory role will remain critical as the Republic expands its catchment areas and increases the reclamation of used water.

Assuring members of the public that PUB staff will be professional in their work, the spokesman said they can be identified through their staff passes. Contractors should have an authorisation pass from the agency.

The public can also verify the officers' identities through the agency's 24-hour hotline on 1800-2846600. If anything is missing after a visit, the occupant should file a police report and inform the agency by calling the hotline.

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Malaysia: Preserve the pristine beaches in Johor

The Star 24 Apr 12;

JUST as “Tioman risks being an ecological wasteland” (The Star, April 23), a major ecological disaster is threatening Desaru and Pengerang in Johor.

We are all for development in Pengerang. However, it is important for Petronas and the Government to ensure the preservation of the pristine beaches of Desaru and Pengerang.

Recently, Petronas announced the huge RAPID project to develop Pengerang as the oil and gas hub for Malaysia and South East Asia. This Petronas RAPID project is on fast track basis for the development of a number of oil and gas refineries in Teluk Ramunia.

What is important is for Malaysia to become a developed nation without destroying our pristine environment and fragile ecology.

For example, for this RAPID project, Petronas is to mine sea sand from nearby Teluk Ramunia to be used to top up a mangrove swamp.

This is for a massive housing project to relocate villagers affected by the RAPID project.

This approach of mining and sucking sea sand to top up the mangrove swamp will have a huge environmental impact. A large track of pristine fishing ground will be destroyed, denying the local fisherman of their livelihood.

By mining and sucking sea sand, thousands of acres of pristine beachfront land stretching from Desaru to Teluk Ramunia will be destroyed.

The beautiful beaches of Desaru and Pengerang will be swallowed by the sea. It is common sense that if you take sand from the sea, nearby beaches will be eroded to form new sand in the sea.

In future, remedial work to build embankments to protect the beaches will cost Petronas billions of ringgit.

And, Khazanah Nasional is developing a huge RM6bil project in Desaru into a premier beach resort and theme park.

It is important for the Environment Ministry, the Johor government, the Federal Government and Petronas to seriously study this problem.

I’m sure every proud Malaysian will be happy to see Malaysia become a developed nation, but not at the expense of destroying our fragile eco-system.

We have to take care of our environment for future generations of Malaysians.


Kuala Lumpur.

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Malaysia: Tioman risks being an ecological wasteland

The Star 23 Apr 12;

I READ the report “Posh Perhentian?” (The Star, April 17) as a tourist on the flight back home earlier this week, and am saddened to report that a similar sorry state of affairs would seem to apply to Pulau Tioman.

I have been to the island with my partner three times over the past 20 years with my last visit one week ago.

We had hoped that despite some negative reviews, that the island would have developed more positively over the years.

On this visit, most of our time was spent on the once outstanding Salang Beach. Sad to say, the first thing we noticed was the pollution from the river leading into the sea, smelling like a third world sewage outlet.

We saw cesspits connected to some buildings, though we had no idea of their eventual destination. However, more telling, was the waste pipes and foul water being vented directly into the river.

Walking along the seafront, our spirits rose initially, as efforts had obviously been made to keep it tidy with collection points for plastic bottles and cans clearly visible.

However, a quick stroll round the back of the chalets and restaurants revealed large quantities of dumped cans strewn amongst huge piles of mixed rubbish.

Seemingly, like Pulau Perhentian, it was all waiting for a rubbish collection policy, or one to take effect.

Granted, the beach seemed clean enough.

However, the snorkelling experience is substantially diminished as there is very little coral left and the water no longer has that appealing translucent quality that I remember from 15 years ago.

It occurred to me that I had seen markedly fewer animals and birds on this visit. Enquiries elicited a sorry story from some locals who spoke about the extinction of porcupines and mouse deer through relentless hunting.

I remembered during my first visit to Tioman over 20 years ago, how proud the locals had been of the rare species on the island.

They were proud of the coral and the beautiful clear water and uninterrupted view of the jungle, white sand and sea that made Tioman one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the world as voted by Time Magazine in the 70s.

The outlying islands are still beautiful, but there seems little understanding or care exercised to preserve this natural beauty with water taxis running over live coral as they take people to these remote beaches.

More care is urgently needed here as the coral has already to contend with the damage from climate change without having to cope with the additional damage from local pollution and breakage from boats and tourists.

It is clear that the ability of the islands to generate tourist ringgit will only work if there exists the natural beauty that they want to see.

Without concerted action, islands like Tioman risk being left as an embarassing ecological wasteland shunned by tourists and unable to support the fishing villages that once lived off the coral reefs before the tourists came.



Nr Bridport, England.

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Malaysia: New regulation seeks to improve zoo conditions

S.S. Yoga The Star 24 Apr 12;

A new regulation spells hope for the betterment of animals kept in zoos.

IF animals could laugh and sing in happiness, there would be some trumpeting of joy emerging from zoos and wildlife parks in Peninsular Malaysia for on Feb 1, the Wildlife Conservation (Operation of Zoo) Regulations 2012 was gazetted.

The new regulation gives voice to the need to regulate zoos systematically and to higher standards. Animal lovers and conservationists have long highlighted the terrible conditions under which wildlife is held in captivity in such establishments. The problem was also widely highlighted in the media last year.

The new regulation is made possible with the enforcement of the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010 in December 2010. It replaces the Protection of Wildlife Act 1972 which had been criticised as lacking bite and failing to address many concerns.

One of the failures was the lack of power for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) to act against errant zoos and wildlife parks. Also, the old legislation has no provisions addressing wildlife welfare and cruelty to captive animals. The new regulation resolves these loophole as it provides for some areas where Perhilitan could take action against errant zoos.

Zoo operators have a six-month grace period to comply with the new requirements of the regulation. Those which do will be issued an annual permit. Any person operating a zoo without a permit is liable to a fine not exceeding RM70,000 or/and a prison term not exceeding three years.

The new regulation requires zoos and animal parks to:

> Adhere to minimum cage sizes, which are specified according to various animal groups.

> Have a quarantine area and a veterinary clinic or hospital.

> Employ a full-time consultant veterinarian.

> Provide vaccination of animals by a veterinarian or anyone under his supervision.

> Provide nutritious and sufficient food for the animals, as prescribed by a veterinarian.

> Maintain a record of kept animals and their health care.

> Ensure the cleanliness of the facility.

> Conduct euthanasia of wildlife whenever necessary.

> Conduct wildlife shows that involves the animals’ natural behaviours only.

> Submit a deposit to Perhilitan for the upkeep of animals should they be seized.

Operators who contravene these provisions are liable to a fine not exceeding RM100,000 or/and a prison term not exceeding five years.

Singapore-based non-governmental organisation Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), which has done several surveys of Malaysian zoos and pointed out the weaknesses of these establishments, views the new regulation positively.

“It is undoubtedly a good start and it shows that Perhilitan is serious about addressing zoo animal welfare issues and has also responded positively to the feedback given by Acres, other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and members of the public. This is undoubtedly one of the best zoo regulations we have seen in South-East Asia,” says executive director Louis Ng.

Upreshpal Singh, founder of the Friends of Orang Utans Malaysia, concurs. “The new law looks really good and it comes at a time when many zoos still have to improve, some more so,” he says.

While acknowledging that the new regulation is “a good start”, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president S.M. Mohamed Idris questions if Perhilitan has the manpower to inspect the many operations that house wild animals. “The new legislation cannot be effective until enforcement officers have acquired expertise in recognising defects in animal husbandry and can devote their time to unannounced physical checks of premises,” he says.

The Natural Resources and Environment Ministry (NRE), however, assures that there will be enough manpower to scrutinise the zoos as it will rely on Perhilitan’s zoo audit team, law enforcement team and wildlife crime units, as well as its own independent zoo review panel. In response to concerns raised by Traffic South-East Asia senior communications officer Elizabeth John, it says the operating permit of a zoo will not be automatically renewed each year. An audit would be done first to ensure compliance with the regulation. In addition, Perhilitan will conduct enforcement checks, attend to public complaints and provide advice to the zoos.

Too lenient

Sean Whyte, founder of Britain’s Nature Alert and a strong critic of Malaysian zoos, describes the regulation as “comprehensive and excellent”. However, he worries about Perhilitan’s dismal record in enforcing the law and the leniency which it has shown to some zoos. “The new law will be useless if not enforced diligently and transparently by Perhilitan. We can only judge them by what they do, not by what they say they will do,” cautions Whyte.

The Ministry counters that NGOs, instead of making accusations, should join Perhilitan in its Teman Zoo Program (Friends of Zoos Programme), an outreach programme launched in July last year for guidance to zoo operators.

“The NGOs can file their complaints to various government agencies, media and political parties if they feel Perhilitan has committed any wrong doings,” it adds.

Measures to monitor the diet of captive animals and their health records are addressed in the Zoo Best Management Guidelines which are now being drafted. On the NGOs’ criticism that the regulation is silent on the type of substrate and furniture used in animal enclosures, the Ministry says these will be controlled by Perhilitan’s zoo audit team and the NRE zoo review panel.

The Ministry says animal inventory – data on births, deaths, acquisitions, escapes, transfers and releases – will be governed by the main Act, specifically in the provisions on “licences and permits”, and also under “duties and obligations”.

“The animal’s record must tally with the tag ID which must be reported to the licensing division for verification when acquiring the animal,” says the Ministry.

But a perusal of the main Act sees some ambiguity in matters concerning animal births, escape and release.

Purely entertainment

One contentious issue with regards to wildlife park operations is the running of animal shows to entertain visitors. Among the acts which had wildlife lovers fuming were: a sun bear made to support itself on a rolling drum; a pig-tailed macaque on a leash made to dive into a tank of water from a raised platform; and orang utans made to cycle.

Previously, zoos have been issued “instructions” to conduct shows which only exhibit the natural behaviour of animals but this was openly flouted. The instruction is now provided for under the regulation.

The Ministry says if zoos fail to comply with the new requirement after the six-month grace period, action will be taken. “The public, too, must do their part by not demanding for circus acts and shy away from it. Awareness is pertinent in this aspect,” it says. To ensure the welfare of captive animals, matters pertaining to cruelty and mistreatment are covered in the main Act.

Meanwhile, three other regulations are being drafted to address other concerns. The proposed Wildlife Conservation (Disposal) Regulations will stipulate matters on euthanasia of animals and require records of disposals to be reported to Perhilitan’s licensing division. The proposed Wildlife Conservation (Commercial Captive Breeding) Regulations will regulate breeding and surplus zoo animals. Transportation of animals to and from zoos will be covered under the proposed Wildlife Conservation (Exhibition) Regulations.

Meanwhile, SAM asks that all proposed new zoos and parks – such as the purportedly largest bird park in South-East Asia, to be sited at the Botanical Gardens in Ayer Keroh, Malacca; the zoo in Kemaman, Terengganu; and the Bukit Gambang Safari Park in Kuantan – be put on hold. It says getting existing zoos to meet the new standards should be the priority for Perhilitan.

The department, however, sees no reason why the new zoos should not be set up as long as they are in accordance with the new regulation. Well, it remains to be seen how effective the policing of the new law will be. Meanwhile, those concerned with the treatment of animals in zoos say they will be vigilant.

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Warning on Indonesia’s Disappearing Forests

Jakarta Globe 23 Apr 12;

Earth Day commemorations in Indonesia were low-key, but those who marked the day were quick to warn of the worsening environmental situation.

An environmental group on Sunday called on the Aceh administration to stop issuing permits to convert forested areas for other uses.

“We also call for the government to immediately conduct an inspection of all forest conversion permits,” T.M. Zulfikar, the executive director of the Aceh office of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), said in Banda Aceh on Sunday.

Zulfikar said the permits, which are issued to plantation, mining and other firms, should be reevaluated.

He added that the government should reestablish people’s customary rights to forest areas to ensure their preservation.

Zulfikar said 58 percent of Aceh’s 5.7 million hectares was covered by forests, but that this was shrinking under the pretext of investment, both in plantations and mines.

“The Aceh administration has not prioritized the issue of deforestation and a 2007 moratorium on logging has not been effective,” he said.

Deforestation has led to increasing damage from floods, while animals are endangered by encroaching human development.

“In 2011 there were 57 confrontations between animals and people, up from 19 the year before,” he said.

“The people are putting a lot of faith in the next governor of the province to address these issues,” Zulfikar said, referring to the gubernatorial elections earlier this month.

Walhi’s West Sumatra branch, meanwhile, warned that Indonesia’s forests were in a critical state given the rate of deforestation.

Growing investment in the country has resulted in more demand for land, threatening the survival of forests, Walhi West Sumatra executive director Abednego Tarigan said in Padang on Sunday.

He said there was a need to balance economic development with environmental protection, adding that Indonesia loses one million hectares of forests a year just to oil palm plantations.
He blamed the government for prioritizing the exploitation of natural resources over environmental protection.

These exploitative practices, he said, would lead to greater economic and social costs. Abednego said the worst affected areas were archipelagic provinces such as Bangka-Belitung and Jambi.

He added that reforestation efforts were not keeping pace with deforestation.

However, Abednego said public awareness of the issue was growing, as evidenced by numerous tree planting initiatives, but warned that this needed to move past ceremonial formalities and acquire government backing.


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Scientists call for Arctic fishing moratorium, rules

AFP Yahoo News 24 Apr 12;

Scientists on Monday urged Arctic rim nations to set fishing regulations for the Arctic Ocean, and order a moratorium on fishing until stocks are assessed, before trawlers soon start dropping nets in the pristine waters.

"A commercial fishery in the central Arctic Ocean is now possible and feasible," said more than 2,000 scientists from 67 countries in an open letter to Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States.

But not enough is known about "the presence, abundance, structure, movements, and health of fish stocks and the role they play in the broader ecosystem" of these international waters as large as the Mediterranean Sea.

The international community must "take action now to protect these waters until we have the science and governance in place to ensure sustainable development of fisheries," the scientists wrote in the letter.

The main barrier to fishing in the Arctic waters is quickly disappearing, as the ice cap melts. Since the summer of 2007, 40 percent of the central Arctic Ocean has been open water.

Soon trawlers from major fishing nations could begin to appear in the far north.

The United States adopted a precautionary approach by closing its Arctic waters to commercial fishing in 2009 to allow scientists to assess the evolving environment.

Canada is also drafting its own fisheries policy for the adjoining Beaufort Sea.

But the scientists fear that "in the absence of scientific data and a robust management system" for the entire region, "depletion of fishery resources and damage to other components of the ecosystem are likely to result if fisheries commence."

The letter was released on the first day of the International Polar Year 2012 science conference in Montreal which brings together the five Arctic coastal countries.

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